About Invisible Ink
I get asked this a lot: “So, is Invisible Ink about zines, or is it a zine?” The answer is more of the latter. It’s essentially a one-person operation, and it has a very handcrafted feel to me. The majority of the contributors are my indie press heroes, but a good story, is a good story, so “professional” writers and regular people do show up and tell a story or two. I like mixing all those folks up together, and I love it that radio strips away all those visual cues that prejudice us about someone’s writing. On the radio you can’t tell the quality of the paper, or if the work is bound or stapled, or if it was printed professionally or made at the Kinkos around the corner.
Zines and public radio are a natural fit. Zines are publications done for the love of doing them, not to make a profit. Most people involved lose money, and volunteer their time. A good zine and a successful radio story share the same feeling of connection between the author and the audience. I like to think of the show’s sound as being zine-like in structure. Sometimes it’s straightforward, and sometimes it jumps around with scattered bits of interview strung throughout the half hour, punctuated by shorter stories within. Then sometimes you turn the page and there’s a taped down Xeroxed picture of Mr. T for no real reason.
After about a year of doing Invisible Ink by myself, I began to get more actual paying work in radio. In early 2004, I was working on five different radio shows a week and it was getting harder and harder to get Invisible Ink done each Sunday. That’s when Sue
Mell and Matt
Simon came in. They came to the station ostensibly as interns, but proved themselves to be great producers right out of the gate. I hope to broadcast more of their inspiring work in the future. I still don’t have regular producers as such, no meetings, no assignments, but maybe that’ll change.
About “The Anti-Gambler” (Invisible Ink #57- 04/25/04)
So I’ve gotten pretty fed up with all the glorified Vegas crap. The lottery is a regressive tax on people with no hope. The predatory gambling practices of the Vegas casinos are despicable. And, I like poker too, but what’s with all the poker nights all the sudden? It’s not like cards were just invented! This is not about puritanism, I just think this hipster “risk it all” gambling phenomena is silly. Going to a casino is about as cool as going to McDonalds. This week we have stories about gambling, and there are none of those happy, quirky, British guy walks into a casino and bets his life savings on a roulette wheel and wins stories. These are only the horror stories of gambling: suicide, addiction, the lottery, and annoying poker night players. Joshuah Bearman (Other People’s Stories, The Believer, McSweeneys), John Marr (Murder Can Be Fun), Kim Phillips-Fein (The Baffler), and Dr. James Westphal (UCSF gambling addiction expert) contribute. The hipster gambling backlash has begun. Those guys in Swingers were dorks. That was the point.
About “For Love” (Invisible Ink #50- 02/15/04)
The things we do for love. As a cure for our post-Valentine’s Day emotional hangover, we have these stories about the extremes people go to in the name of love. It’s not pretty. Sue Mell, you will soon hear, has done some extreme things in the name of love and after being told an equally distressing story about the ends her friend goes to just to please her boyfriend, she went on a mission collecting stories. What we discovered is that these stories could also be described as the things we do when we fail to realize that we aren’t in love. We here at Invisible Ink want you all to know that we are decidedly pro-love, even though it rarely sounds like it.
Sue Mell on “For Love”
For me, “For Love” was a perfect world kind of situation. I got to incorporate my skills as a performer, a writer, and a producer, as well as just myself at the end. I’d had that spermicide story kicking around in my head literally for years and kept looking for some way to write it or use it for something. It was the seed that all the rest of the parts germinated from and I feel incredibly lucky that that seed got rooted in the soil of Invisible Ink. I’m not sure what I said in my initial meeting with Roman that convinced him I had a show’s worth of idea, but he encouraged me to gather more tape and get something together in time for Valentine’s Day and the result turned out to be a show I find deeply satisfying and much more complex than what I started with.
About Roman Mars
I was working on my PhD in plant genetics before I became obsessed with making radio. I then took what turned out to be an indefinite hiatus from academia so I could move to San Francisco and join the workforce. I spent a couple of years saving up my money so I could make the transition to the high paying, go-go world of public radio. I called it “life investment.” Rather than buying anything, I lived meagerly and financed a couple of lean years of unpaid and/or underpaid work in radio. I applied for all kinds of formal internships and didn’t get anywhere and then I finally wrote the KALW General Manger, Nicole Sawaya, directly and offered to do anything to get in the door. Writing that email was one of the best things I’ve ever done. It should be noted that before I started knocking on doors, I spent a great deal of time learning everything I could on my own so I would be an asset to the station/program that finally decided to take me in. That’s where Transom proved itself to be an invaluable resource.
Three years later, I’ve produced dozens of shows for KALW and I’ve helped launch three new radio programs. I currently work on Invisible Ink, Writers’ Voice Radio, Philosophy
Talk, and I’m a KALW announcer and board operator. I work about 60-70 hours a week and it does get to be too much at times. When I consider dropping something, the obvious choice is to drop Invisible Ink because it’s the one that takes up the most time and doesn’t bring in any income, but I can’t do it. Invisible Ink is why I do radio. Until I find something as fulfilling, I’ll be staying up editing until 3 in the morning for a while.
About Sue Mell
Sue Mell got her start right here at Transom this past December with “Girl Detectives“. She lives in San Francisco where she works as a photo stylist and an illustrator and is a frequent contributor to Invisible Ink.